On Thursday afternoon it was announced by John Blake of the Texas Rangers that Josh Hamilton had been released from his minor league contract.
There is no doubt that this is the end of Hamilton’s career with the Texas Rangers and will most likely be the end of his big league career overall. Hamilton has not been the same since leaving Texas for Anaheim after the 2012 season as his body has slowly and steadily deteriorated to the point that even the minimum is not possible for Josh anymore.
It would be easy for Rangers fans to remember Josh for the last four years rather than his first five with Texas. It would be easy to remember Josh as the guy who left town for a paycheck rather than staying with the team who did everything they could to help him stay successful despite his shortcomings. It would be easy for Rangers fans to remember Josh for “baseball town” or “Sherlocks” or “Arizona.” The problem with remembering Josh for his shortcomings though is that in doing so, one can forget that Josh Hamilton was a key player in resurrecting the Texas Rangers franchise.
When Hamilton arrived in Texas in 2008, the Rangers had not made a post season appearance since 1999. It took the Rangers just two years to get back to the post season once Hamilton was on board and that started a run of five postseason appearances in seven years for the Rangers. In 2010 Hamilton led the Rangers to their first ever World Series and in 2011, it was Hamilton’s extra innings home run that should’ve given the Rangers their first ever World Series title were it not for two bullpen meltdowns and a heroic St. Louis comeback. The most impressive part of Hamilton’s run for Texas was the fact that had become the greatest story in baseball and he thrived in the spotlight.
Take a look at Hamilton’s numbers in his five years with Texas between 2008 and 2012. In that time frame Hamilton had 771 hits, 506 runs batted in, 156 doubles, and 142 home runs. In addition to those ridiculous offensive numbers Hamilton was an all-star 5 times, Silver Slugger 3 times and the winner of the AL MVP award in 2010. For those five years Hamilton was other worldly and the Rangers were the sole benefactor of his success.
So while it’s easy to see Hamilton’s final four years with LA and Texas and remember him for his failures or for his proclivity towards injury it’s impossible to deny that he gave the Rangers a five-year stretch that will go down as one of the best in team history. Hamilton was must see TV and when he hit the ball it made a noise that you just don’t hear all that often. Amidst Hamilton’s five years with Texas he turned in several performances that will stick in Rangers fans memory forever and the top three are listed below:
The 2008 AL All Star Game
Josh Hamilton’s first year in a Texas Rangers resulted in his first of five straight all-star appearances and an invitation to the Home Run Derby. Josh Hamilton was already the story of the weekend even before his electrifying performance. Here was a player who had fallen so far and when given a second chance had made the most of it. He was electrifying in every sense of the word and he had electrified a Texas Rangers fan base that had been lying dormant in the heat of the Texas summers for a better part of a decade.
When Hamilton finally stepped into the box for the Home Run Derby he put on the single greatest performance in home run derby history and yet he didn’t even win. In the first round Hamilton hit 28 home runs. Within his magical round Hamilton was so locked in that at one point he hit 13 home runs in a row, and 22 out of 25. Even more impressive than that number was the fact that Hamilton hit balls to parts of Yankee Stadium that had never seen a baseball and probably never will again. It was a magical night for baseball and the night that Rangers fan knew they were part of something special, part of something they hadn’t seen in years.
2011 World Series, Game 6
In Game 6 of the World Series, after the Rangers had blown and lead needing just one strike to win the title, Hamilton stepped into the box in the top of the tenth inning and hit a tie breaking home run giving the Rangers the lead back. This was his “natural” moment. This was the type of moment that defines a career, which statues replicate and that fans recount to their children’s children. Unfortunately for Hamilton and the Rangers, the St. Louis Cardinals came back again and ultimately won the game and the series. Despite that, Hamilton’s home run will go down as one of his best moments in a Rangers uniform. What’s even more impressive about that moment was the fact that Hamilton was playing with an abdominal injury that greatly diminished his power, yet he was still able to pull off what could’ve and should’ve been the most historic moment in Texas Rangers history.
The Four-Homer Game
In the history of the game, only 16 players have hit fouf home runs in a game. On May 8, 2012 Hamilton became the 16th member of this illustrious club against Jake Arietta and the Baltimore Orioles. This was a night in which Hamilton could not be stopped and a night in which he would’ve hit five home runs had he not put too much top spin on his third hit of the night which turned into a double. When asked about the performance, Hamilton remarked that other than the World Series, it was the most memorable moment of his career. For Rangers fans, it’s a night they will remember forever.
When all is said and done, Josh Hamilton should be remembered for what he did in his first five years as a Ranger. No he was not perfect and he didn’t always do the right thing but he left a mark on the franchise that will always remain. The Rangers are still churning out 90-win seasons and playoff appearances without Hamilton, but if it wasn’t for him, this run of success may have never started in the first place.